Road niggers


The failure to prosecute Gale Purcell for the killing of Michael Mason should frighten anyone who rides a bicycle.

Mrs Purcell drove into the rear of Mr Mason’s bicycle as he was riding north on Regent Street in the West End of London on 25 February.

Mrs Purcell, who stopped at the scene, told the inquest she had not seen Mr Mason despite his bike having front and rear lights.

She was unable to explain to the inquest how she failed to see Mr Mason. The coroner, Dr William Dolman, recorded Mr Mason’s death as an accident.

A court trial might find reasons to acquit Mrs Purcell of manslaughter. But on the facts known so far she simply ran him down and killed him. She offers no reason why she should not be held responsible for his death.

The coroner sees no one responsible. It was an ‘accident’. It just happened. There is a case to answer that Mrs Purcell failed in her duty of care to other road users. But Dr Dolman excludes that.

The police consider they have insufficient evidence for a prosecution to succeed. They lament the absence of CCTV footage of the collision. It is hard to see why this would be relevant. No one disputes Mrs Purcell ran down Mr Mason and killed him. A film might show some unreported incident to explain what Mrs Purcell says she cannot explain. The defence might seize on that gratefully. But the absence of CCTV footage could hardly weaken a prosecution, and it is difficult to see what its presence might add to it.

View this as a test case. The facts are rarely this plain. The bald and frightening implication of the inquest is running down someone riding a bicycle is not an offence. We are ‘road niggers’. There is no justice for us.

This cannot stand. Urge and support the Cyclists Defence Fund and the CTC’s Road Justice campaign to get the coroner’s verdict overturned and Mrs Purcell prosecuted for killing Mr Mason.



  1. They didn’t (with respect to bike riders). Currently, they still don’t. No change there.

    Note that it is the coroner’s verdict that has stopped this prosecution in its tracks. By recording a verdict describing the event as an accident, they have guaranteed that any prosecution will fail. It isn’t just the police that consider cyclists’ lives to be worthless, it is the legal system itself.

    Quite apart from that, it shouldn’t be up to the cops to decide whether to prosecute or not, it should be up to the prosecutor’s office (in the case of England and Wales, that means the CPS).


    1. At first sight then, the problem lies solely with Dr Holman. (Is this the same Dr William Holman Wikipedia reports having retired in 2007?) The matter might not be so simple. It’s hard to suppose Holman would have ruled Accidental Death had the police wanted to charge and prosecute Purcell.

      And a poster in the Stop Killing Cyclists group on Facebook reports Martin Porter QC says the Met had decided before the inquest against prosecution.


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